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African Commission on
Human and Peoples' Rights

Statement on the human rights situation in South Sudan

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), through the Country rapporteur for human rights in South Sudan, is following closely the human rights situation in South Sudan. The Commission is in particular concerned about the human rights issues relating to the novel coronavirus (COVID19 and the impact it is having on the transitional process.

The African Commission is concerned that COVID-19 further undermines the already weak system of protection of the right to health in South Sudan characterized by a health care system in which only less than half of the state's healthcare facilities are functioning, and, of those, many are both understaffed and poorly equipped and by acute shortage of health care workers and departure of humanitarian actors due to COVID-19.

The African Commission notes that 1,916 cases of COVID-19 cases, 35 deaths due to the virus, and 190 recoveries have been reported in South Sudan. While the African Commission, as stated in its statement of 24 March 2019 on COVID19 in Africa, affirms that the Government of South Sudan has primary responsibility for instituting public health measures for protecting the public from COVID-19, it is concerned that the members of the High-Level Task Force that the Government established to coordinate and lead the response against the pandemic have become infected with the virus.

The African Commission is further concerned that COVID-19 exacerbates existing human rights, humanitarian and security challenges in the country. The African Commission is in particular concerned about reports of spike in gender-based violence and sexual violence targeting women and girls and incidents of arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and excessive use of force by security force and the impact of the closure of schools and other measures on the right to education and access to basic needs.

The African Commission also expresses its concern about the threat that COVID-19 poses particularly on the most vulnerable members of society including women, children and internally displaced persons (IDPs)who are disproportionately affected by pre-existing conditions of insecurity, lack of access to services and humanitarian crisis including food insecurity. In this respect, the African Commission expresses its alarm at the risk of the spread of COVID-19 following the reported spread of the virus in the United Nations Protection of Civilian sites in the capital city, Juba and in Unity State and the dire threat such spread poses to the health and life of IDPs, including the approximately 150,000 people who are sheltered in UN civilian protection sights.

The African Commission is also concerned about the negative impact of COVID-19 on the peace process and the implementation of the transitional process in South Sudan and on humanitarian access due to the disruption of humanitarian supply chains and humanitarian actors. Emerging in a context of insecurity and local violence in various parts of the country, the Commission is concerned about reports of over 400 incidents of community violence that has been reported between January and May 2020 and about on-going hostilities, including between Government forces and the National Salvation Front forces in Central Equatoria in violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and peace efforts made in Rome.

The African Commission urges the Government of South Sudan

  • To comply with the African Commission’s statement of 24 March on human rights based effective response to COVID-19 in Africa; 
  • To implement localized response by implementing public health measures in high risk areas;
  • To sustain momentum in the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) and fast track the constitution of infrastructures of governance including finalization of agreement between the parties to the South Sudan peace agreement on the establishment of the leadership structures at the state and local government levels for ensuring effective system of governance;
  • To ensure unhindered access to the provision of humanitarian assistance, including in the provision of health care services for IDPs and maintain close working relationship with the UN mission in the country and support measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the UN POC sites;
  • To ensure full operation of human rights monitoring and reporting and provide protection and support for those who suffered violations including notably in the provision of psycho-social and medical assistance to women and children affected by gender-based and sexual violence;
  • To take leadership for stopping hostilities and upholding the ceasefire which is necessary to avoid forced conscription including of children, unnecessary loss of lives and the worsening of the humanitarian situation in South Sudan.